Your presence at school is important, especially on Count Day


Natalie Mix

Mrs. Anderson’s Level 1 ASL class, in attendance and hard at work

The importance of public school funding for each student is immeasurable. While the importance seems to linger below our awareness, this is only because of the amazing group of staff that works to make our days flow as seamlessly as possible. 

“We get a building budget that I’m in charge of,” principal Steve Passinault said. “I’d say it’s more like an instructional budget. That would go for supplies and textbooks that would help run the school. Teachers’ salaries are all negotiated by the teacher union and our central office administration. That takes up a very large chunk of the resources. That is the majority of the funding.”

Funding for the school district is found from two main sources. Bonds for the district are the first. That money could be used for something like the school’s football stadium. The budget that Passinault referred to is taken from the second resource: Count Day.

Count Day is exactly what it sounds like. It is totaling up the student population in order to receive accurate funding from the state. 

“Count Day is the official day [we count students],” Passinault said. “There’s one each semester: we do one in October and then this one coming up. And then they use the spring from the previous year, and the fall count from the current year to determine the funding for that year.”

Count Day was February 9. While Passinault works to distribute the money, registrar Keyla Acevedo-Hargis works to produce not only an accurate total count of students but also to track down those who are missing on the elected Count Day. 

“They call it Count Day,” Acevedo-Hargis said. “We don’t really go around counting students, but we count how many are present automatically through attendance. Basically, the way we do Count Day is just by capturing attendance. When students are present on Count Day, we are capturing their attendance for that day, which tells the state that the student is present and comes to school and is doing work. In turn, they give us the funding for the student.”

When students are present on Count Day, we are capturing their attendance for that day, which tells the state that the student is present and comes to school and is doing work. In turn, they give us the funding for the student.

— Keyla Acevedo-Hargis

While this seems like a rather simple task, with students missing for a multitude of reasons, Acevedo-Hargis finds the task at hand to be more of a challenge. 

“I make sure that [students who miss Count Day] have a full schedule or if they have a reduced schedule, that they have the proper paperwork,” Acevedo-Hargis said. “I make sure that if they are absent, I track them so I can make sure I capture what day they came back to school. There are two different roles if a student is absent on Count Day. If they were excused, we have thirty days after Count Day to capture attendance and get full funding. If a student is unexcused, then we only have ten.” 

As students regularly disregard the day as a regular school day, it is of great help to the school and staff because while one may not be losing the school money, one is creating a great deal more work for people like Acevedo-Hargis. 

While missing solely Count Day may not serve as a major issue for school funding, regularly skipping or being absent costs the district thousands. 

“We take those [attendance] numbers,” Passinault said, “and multiply it by about 8,000 dollars per pupil. That funding amount changes. That money goes to the about 10,000 students who are kindergarten through twelfth grade at Forest Hills Public Schools. The district gets that amount of money, and it’s dispersed through all the schools in the district to pay to educate all of you guys.”

While missing a day of school can pose an unavoidable feat in some circumstances, if you recognize that the district calendar reads “Count Day,” leave that one day free from appointments. If not saving money, you are saving precious time from FHC’s hardworking staff.

“It’s really nothing more than getting an accurate count of how many students are enrolled at Forest Hills Central,” Passinault said. “We have to do that through attendance. Obviously, there are going to be kids who are out ill or for whatever reasons—it doesn’t mean that we would lose funding because someone is sick on that Count Day, but what we have to do then is show positive attendance for that student. It’s important for a student that we couldn’t count who is not only missing on Count Day but missing in regular attendance after, because it loses us close to eight thousand dollars.”